Families, couples and groups of friends relax in tree shade on a wide lawn next to a flower garden in full bloom. They giggle and watch the antics of comedian and juggler Dan Raspyni. He reveals an axe with a top spike for his next trick, and some tough teens from the back of the crowd call out, “Is that real?”
“Yes!” says Raspyni. “To prove it, I will cut whoever said that. Now who said that?”
More giggles. Raspyni juggles then spikes a fifty dollar head of cabbage.
“It costs so much because it’s both free range and boneless. But beware! It’s a dangerous trick— this cabbage is not organic!”
A few yards up hill, freshly painted pet rocks rest on a tarp at the Wine and Palette tent. Across the garden, a collaborative sculpture is evolving from decorated tongue depressors and colored yarn, woven into a seven-by-five foot metal outline of Oklahoma. Nearby in a larger tent, children make caterpillars from painted egg crates, giving them pipe cleaner antennae. Some kids make masks from half a paper plate covered with construction paper shapes.
This is the scene at the 49th annual Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts.
Next door, the Young-at-Art mart is a gallery for kids only. Guardians wait nervously at the front table, hopeful that their kids won’t break anything valuable and curious about their aesthetic sensibilities. The small prints, paintings, jewelry and wooden trinkets on display are priced between $2 and $5.
“I just love this because the kids are on their own. They choose some art and their parents learn something,” says volunteer Jean Hendrickson. She says kids often take their new purchase over to artists’ row to visit with the artist and to see their larger works.
The festival features 141 artists of the 500-plus who applied this year. Participating in the past does not guarantee a future position. Though this is his ninth year on-site, realist painter Edward Parks of Naples, Florida did not make the cut for three of the years he applied.
“This is a high quality festival,” says Park. “It’s convenient, too.”
Park spends the winter in Naples where he runs his own small gallery, and tours for 25 or 30 shows during festival season from April to October. When asked about the $150 entry and 20% commission fees, Park says that galleries commonly charge 40% and many festivals are small and two days long rather than six days. Even when it rains some, there are four or five days of good weather and heavy traffic.
Michael Holmes agrees. He has painted for two decades and been on the art festival circuit for seven years. This is his first year at the Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts. In preparation, the Des Moines artist painted the old Milk Bottle Grocery and the Oklahoma state capitol in color.
Blue Sage Studios artisans and educators demonstrate glass blowing on-site from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. each day, using collaboration and a 2,000-degree kiln. Middle school teacher and studio founder Andrew Boatman explains hand tools and techniques as the artists create cups and other decorative pieces. Additional art, music and poetry demonstrations pop-up throughout the week, in addition to 300 entertainers performing music and dance on three stages.
Food is a major draw for many area residents. Each of the nearly 30 booths on International Food Row donates proceeds to a specific local arts organization. Chelsy Glenn attends the first day of the festival every year with her mother Jasmine Glenn. They always order from Strawberries Newport and Indian Taco. This year their purchases benefit Science Museum Oklahoma and the Fine Arts Institute of Edmond.
“We love it here— the people, the art. Everyone comes together. It’s so beautiful. It feels like Paris!” Jasmine Glenn said with glee. “It’s clean. And it’s very green.”
Precious Simmons and Shonna Rich have visited the festival every year since elementary school. Beautiful art and delicious food are their favorite aspects. Simmons’ taco salad from Bodacious Burritos benefits Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park, while Rich’s fried catfish with red beans and rice from C’est Si Bon benefits the Black Liberated Arts Center.
The final day of the festival is Sunday, April 26 from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
With so much to do, see and experience in Central Oklahoma, the OneSix8 explores meaningful arts and entertainment options for KGOU’s dedicated listeners. Our calendar of community events features live music, theater, outdoors activities, educational and volunteer opportunities and more. We welcome submissions to the calendar for possible listing and on-air announcement.
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